Students with Significant
Cognitive Disabilities:
Adapting Books
PowerPoint Slides
to be used in conjunction
with the
Facilitator’s Guide
Copyright © 2012, East Carolina University.
Recommended citation:
Lee, A., & Henderson, K. (2012). Students with significant
cognitive disabilities: Adapting books – A PowerPoint
presentation for professional development. Modules
Addressing Special Education and Teacher Education
(MAST). Greenville, NC: East Carolina University.
This resource includes contributions from the module
developer and MAST Module Project colleagues (in
alphabetical order) Kelly Henderson (Facilitator Guide
Editor), Tanner Jones (Web Designer), Diane Kester
(Editor), Sue Byrd Steinweg (Project Director), Bradley
Baggett (Graduate Assistant), and Sandra Hopfengardner
Warren (Principal Investigator).
Session Agenda
Session Goals and Objectives
Background- Why Adapt Books?
Preparing to Adapt a Book
Physical adaptations
Adapting the content
Session Agenda, continued
• Adapting Books for Students with the
Most Significant Disabilities
• Adapting Books with a Focus on
• Summary
• Evaluation
• One of the few things that people of all
ages, races, and backgrounds have in
common is books.
• Literature crosses all boundaries. You can
talk to your best friend or a complete
stranger about a book.
• Books create trends and hot topics.
Consider Harry Potter or Twilight.
Introduction, continued
• Literature is deeply woven into society;
some of our best school memories come
from reading books.
• People with disabilities deserve to be a
part of the conversations that we have
around literature. They should have the
opportunity to create memories about
favorite books.
Introduction, continued
• Several things must happen in order for
students with significant disabilities to
experience literature.
– First, teachers must see the value in
teaching literacy;
– Second, they have to know how to provide
access to books that may seem above
their students’ ability levels; and
– Third, they have to know how to provide
the lessons.
Session Goal
• The goal of this module is to gain the
necessary information to provide detailed
instructions on how to adapt books that
are appropriate for a student’s grade level
and to provide instructions on how to
adapt books for various purposes.
Session Objectives
Participants will be able to:
Identify reasons for adapting books,
Select steps for adapting book materials,
Select steps for adapting text,
Identify steps to create a new adapted book
for a grade level content class, and
5. Identify different ways to adapt books for
varying purposes.
Background- Why Adapt Books?
• The idea of modifying books or more
specifically, text, is not new.
– Students with visual impairments have had
Brailled books for years.
– Several companies offer books that are
high interest but are written at a low
reading level for struggling readers.
– But students with significant disabilities
require teachers to go a step further.
Why Adapt Books? continued
• When adapting books for students with
significant disabilities, consider more
than the text. Consider the physical
barriers that are created by a typical
book. Some of these barriers are:
– Students with fine motor limitations may not
be able to hold the book or turn the pages.
Most chapter books will not even stay open
to a page without holding the book and it is
difficult to manipulate one page at a time.
Why Adapt Books? continued
– Students can be rough with books, tearing
pages. Unadapted books may be too fragile.
– Chapter books with pages and pages of text
may be unappealing.
– In addition to the physical features of a
book, the text creates greater barriers.
These include:
– Not being able to read the words. students
with disabilities will not be fluent readers, we
do not want to simply read aloud to them,
we want them to be active participants.
Why Adapt Books? continued
– Few chapter books will have pictures to
support the events of the story. Learners
need a visual referent to help them
understand the events and characters.
– There is often too much text to be read.
Students with short attention spans require
shorter stories.
Why Adapt Books? continued
– By late elementary school, books may use
vocabulary that students with disabilities do
not understand. Vocabulary often needs to
be simplified or defined.
– In order for our students to be active
participants they may require visual or
tactile cues added to the text.
Activity- Why Adapt Books?
• View examples of adapted chapter
books at
Preparing to Adapt a Book
• First read the book you are adapting.
– Many popular chapter books have summaries
online. Use these to get the gist of chapter,
then summarize in your own words.
– Ask peers in your school to summarize books
that they have already read.
• Two types of adaptations:
– Physical adaptations to the book
– Adaptations to the content of the book.
Preparing to Adapt a Book,
• The order you chose to adapt may vary.
– If you are adapting an elementary book
with lots of pictures and not a lot of text,
start with the physical adaptations.
– If you are adapting a chapter book, start
with the content.
– For chapter books, do not actually take the
book apart because you will be re-writing it.
Activity- Preparing to Adapt a Book
• Select one or two books you use in your
work or other setting.
• Review the content of the elementary
book or a section of a chapter book.
• Consider which type of adaptation
needs to be made first.
• You will use these books for the option
activities later in this module.
Physical adaptations
Physically alter the book
• Begin by cutting the
book apart
• When you are ready to physically alter
the book, begin by cutting the book
apart. This is an easier process if you
have chosen a soft back book.
Laminate the pages of
the book.
This will make the book
sturdier and will allow it
to be cleaned.
Using a heavy laminate
will make it easier for
students to turn the
If you do not have
access to a laminator,
sheet protectors will do.
After the book is taken apart, decide if
there are any pages that you will skip.
Tape those pages together.
Decide how you will make the pages
sturdier: laminating, sheet protectors or
simple taping them with packaging tape.
Bind your book. Many schools have a
spiral binding machine.
If adding objects, consider a 3 ring binder.
Velcro the cover to the book to the cover
of the binder. The problem with the
binders is that the students tend to be
distracted by the rings and they want to
grab them.
Re-bind the book pages
using spiral binding.
Hole punch the pages and insert
into 3 ring binder.
If using the spiral binding, choose a larger
binding. This will allow the pages to turn
When using the 3-ring binders, the
opposite is true. A 1- or 2-inch binder
allows the pages to turn easily and the
rings are not as distracting as those in a
3- or 4-inch binder.
You will need to make the book
accessible for students with physical
challenges. Above left: a handle has
been added for opening the book.
Above right: Popsicle sticks may make
turning the page easier. Bottom right:
page fluffers separate the pages and
make it easier to turn one at a time.
Use cut up sponges, or stacked foam
Encourage active participation.
Opening the book and turning the pages
allows the students to actively participate
in the lesson, but think about your book
before any adaptations.
Would it be possible for the students in
you class to manipulate the book? If so,
then don’t add these things to your book.
Only provide the modifications necessary.
Add physical cues to books
Add foam
letters to
the title
Trace the title in puff
Add a
around the
Fade the
away over
time. 29
Students with significant disabilities may not
know what a title is or what an author is.
It may be helpful to add some physical cues to
the book, to make the act of finding the title
more engaging. Some cues such as the frame
around the author’s name above can be faded
over time by making it smaller or cutting away
one side at a time. For students who are
visually impaired but have functional vision, the
physical cues give them something to feel.
Do not add these cues if students can find the
title and author without them. Ideally, keep the
book as close to its original form as possible.
Modifications to the author
Author: Lois
Most of the time the authors name will be in
very small print.
Re-type the name in larger print and paste it
over the original name. To make the concept of
the author more concrete, it may be helpful to
print a picture of the author and label it as
shown above.
Consider always adding a small picture by the
author’s name. Since there are sometimes
more than one name on the front of the book
(for example the illustrator), the student would
know that they should look for the name with
the picture by it.
Always use the same cue, slowly fade
Be systematic about the cues you add to your
books. For example, the picture on previous
slide has a felt star added to the authors name.
If this is your choice, be consistent and always
add a felt star to the authors name. Do the
same with the title of the book, the repeated
story line, and even vocabulary words. Pick one
visual and or tactile cue for each.
For example, always underline the repeated
story line with pipe cleaner, the title with foam
letters, and put vocabulary words in green.
• Decide where the
students will text
point, highlight or
underline the
Use puff paint
Pipe cleaner
Popsicle stick
Image of hand pointers obtained from
Understanding that we read from left to right is
an important emergent literacy skill.
When learning to text point, it may be helpful to
add a tactile cue underneath the line or lines
where you want the student top text point. This
can be something as inexpensive as a piece of
spaghetti! Some students may enjoy using
pointers such as the ones pictures above.
Activity - Physical adaptations
• Using the books selected for the
previous activity, consider at least two
physical modifications described in this
• Then present to small groups detailing
why you selected the modifications for
your specific book and learners.
Adapting the content
Adapting the content of the book
gets more difficult as you move
up the grades. It is still very
important to choose books
that are grade appropriate
and, if possible, the same books
that the student’s peers without
disabilities are reading.
Where to start…
• When adapting books, it is
helpful to decide on
questions first.
• Once you have the questions,
that will help you adapt the
• You will have to create text
that allows you to ask certain
– For example, you may want
to ask what the problem was
but the problem may not be
explicitly stated
• Which of these facts
from the story support
the statement “Johnny is
a good person?”
• Johnny saw the church
burning and went in to
save the kids.
• Was this a
1. good choice or
2.a bad choice?
Starting by planning your questions – this is
absolutely necessary when re-writing text.
Consider whether you’re asking simple literal
recall and summary questions or if your
students will be able to answer some higher
level questions.
Because the same book will be read repeatedly,
plan to vary the questions.
Adapting the Book
(Shorten or Rewrite)
• Shorten or rewrite the text
– After reading the book, decide• If the vocabulary is basic and easy to understand
(e.g., K-1 level)- will I need to eliminate some pages/
parts of page to shorten the story?
• If the vocabulary is complex- will I need to rewrite
the story? Will it be one summary story or by
• How much do I need to condense? Four chapters
down to two chapters or each chapter down to one
• Even some elementary books have a lot
of text.
• Decide how much you need to
condense based on the needs of your
students. Leave in as much detail as
possible without making it too long.
• In elementary picture books, you may
just re-type the text and paste it over the
• In chapter books you will actually create
a new book.
How to Shorten/Rewrite Text
• Pre-read text
• Summarize each chapter to capture
main idea- provide details
• Re-write chapter summary using
considerate text:
– Grade 2-3 listening comprehension level (Send
plain text file to Lexile Framework for Reading™
website, obtain lexile level, adjust if needed to
Level 400-600)(MetaMetrics, Inc., 2005)
Adapting the Book (Chapter Books)
• Re-write chapter summary
using considerate text:
– Add graphics (picture
symbols) to key vocabulary
– Add definitions to text
– Add explanations to text
– Use Repeated Story Line to
support main idea of each
• Using programs such as Writing with
symbols or Sym Writer you can re-type
your text and add picture symbols where
• Consider the amount of symbols your
students benefit from. Some students can
read complete sentences if they have
symbol support. Others will be distracted
by too many symbols. If you do not have
a program or your students do not yet use
symbols, you can insert small pictures
above key words in the text.
From this…
Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would
have known that trouble was brewing, not alone
for himself, but for every tide- water dog, strong of
muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget
Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the
Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and
because steamship and transportation companies
were booming the find, thousands of men were
rushing into the Northland. These men wanted
dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs,
with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry
coats to protect them from the frost.
Buck lived at a big house in the sun-kissed Santa
Clara Valley. Judge Miller's place, it was called. It
stood back from the road, half hidden among the
trees, through which glimpses could be caught of
the wide cool veranda that ran around its four
This is an excerpt from The Call of the
Wild and then an example of how it might
look after being condensed down.
In the original text, sentences are
constructed in a way that make them
more difficult to understand. There is also
several vocabulary words that are not
common such as “toil”, “groping”, and
“veranda”. You may choose to simply
change words such as these or if they are
important to the story, define them.
Here is an example for vocabulary
Main Idea: Dad saved money by
buying food & clothes in
bulk, saying that a family was
“cheaper by the dozen”.
Children often wore the
same clothing styles.
Vocabulary: Clothes-supports
main idea and has functional
In the book Cheaper by the Dozen, clothes is
chosen as a vocabulary word. The picture
symbol seen above is added since the
students will not know the word. This word is
chosen because it is both important to the
story and it has functional value.
Choose a balance of words- a few that will
have meaning to the student outside of the
story and some that enhance the meaning of
the story but may also be unique to the story.
Cloud is one of the pre-selected
vocabulary words. The word
always being in red provides an
added visual cue that can be
faded later
Dance is the vocabulary word.
It is highlighted; another visual
cue that can be faded later
These are some other examples of
vocabulary words and examples of visual
The word cloud always appears in red;
the word dance is always highlighted in
This example is from the adapted chapter
book Holes. The repeated story line and
the vocabulary are preselected and
reviewed with the students.
Most of these vocabulary words are
functional. However, words like “camp”
and possible "lake” would be words that
the students may not know but these
words are important to understanding the
Plan to meet all of your students response
obtained from Writing with symbols
Public domain image from
As you are planning your vocabulary
words and your response options for
comprehension questions, think about the
response options that you will need to
present to your students.
Will you need words, words with symbols,
words with photos or possible even
Example: Definition & Repeated Story Line
Dad had a special way of calling all of us together
quickly. It was called the assembly call. Assemble
means to get together. Dad would blow a whistle.
Then, we would all line up in the front of the house.
One time, there was a small fire in the driveway. Dad
called us together and we put out the fire with buckets
of water.
Dad was proud of his family.
Sometimes we come across word in
books that are not commonly heard in
everyday language or we know will not be
familiar to our students. Sometimes these
are important to the story and possible
chosen vocabulary.
We will then need to define vocabulary as
well as other words that students may not
know but are important to the story.
Definition & Repeated Story Line
Johnny is in critical condition and might die. He is
very weak. He knows that he is paralyzed from the
waist down. He talks to the boys. Johnny's mother
wants to visit. Johnny refuses to see her. He does not want
her to see him in critical condition. He passes out.
Dally is in better condition than Johnny. He wants to
fight in the rumble tonight. A rumble is a big fight
with lots of people. On the way home Ponyboy runs into
Cherry. Ponyboy and Cherry talk about Johnny.
Johnny is a hero, but he gets hurt.
This is another example of how you might
define a word that is important.
Repeated story line
Repeated story line
added in text
Repeated storyline added
using picture symbols
• A repeated story line is critical.
• Select a line that reflects the main idea
of the book or for chapter books, the
main idea of the chapter. This will allow
students to participate in reading. They
will be able to use a voice out put
device to read the line.
Example: Explanation in text
Dad liked to take us for rides in the car. All of us had to
put on big robes called dusters so that our clothes
would not get dirty. We lived in a time when the roads
were still made of dirt. Dust would cover our clothes
after a long ride. People would stare at our big family in
the car. They asked dad how he took care of so many
children. Dad joked that it cost less money to feed a big
family than a small family.
Dad said we were "cheaper by the dozen".
This is similar to defining the words but
instead you write a sentence or two that
explains the word. Adding an explanation
provides more information than just
defining the word.
Add pictures and make changes to
the text
• Add pictures to support the story.
• If story has pictures, no adaptation
may be needed.
• Enlarge the font.
• If a chapter book or limited pictures
– Use digital photographs.
– Use Boardmaker symbols.
– Cut pictures from inexpensive
picture books that can be used to
help convey the story.
– If artistic, illustrate your book!
As you work through a book, consider:
• Did you create a repeated story line?
• Select vocabulary words?
• Consider your students current literacy
Adapting the Content, continued
• We have reviewed how to
adapt books both inside
and out. Once adapted,
these books will meet the
needs of most of your
There are always those students who fall
above and below your core group of students.
For students who fall below your core group,
you may need to adapt books differently.
For students with the most significant
disabilities you will need to:
• Keep themes simple, focusing on one or
two concepts.
• Use a few objects to represent the most
important things in the story.
• Break down chapter books to one or
two pages per chapter focusing on the
main idea for each chapter.
• Use a few photographs to represent key
events or main characters in the book.
Activity- Adapting the Content
• Using the “Adapted Book Plan” (in
Facilitator’s Guide), plan for how to
adapt a typical picture book that would
be appropriate for learners Kindergarten
through 2nd grade.
Adapting Books for Students with
the Most Significant Disabilities
• These next slides provide examples of
books adapted for students with the
most significant disabilities.
Add objects and texture
For students with multiple disabilities,
consider the use of as many senses as
possible to increase engagement with the
book. On left of previous slide, a juice box
is attached to the page. By feeling the
juice box the student gets a concrete
representation of what the reader is
reading about.
On right, felt stars have been added to the
page. This adds texture that the students
can feel and is also a topic in the text.
Oversized pictures required
Very large pictures may
be needed to represent
things or concepts
• On left in previous slide is another
example of how an object can be added
to the story. The student feels the object
as you read; then you can use that same
object to ask a comprehension
questions. For students with visual
impairments, this is a wonderful strategy.
Above right is a large (8 x 11) picture of
the sky with clouds. For students with the
most significant disabilities, it is often
necessary to enlarge images.
Gather objects and photos
Most of the
time you can
find the
objects that
you need
around your
Some things you cannot
represent with objects.
Represent the characters
with pictures you already
have or with ones found
in public domain on the
• Choose up to 3 things from the book
that you can represent with objects. If
possible, these items should appear
more than once in the story.
• Choose the main character for the book
or chapter and find a photo to represent
that person or animal.
Choose an object to
represent the main idea of
the story or chapter
• Recall the importance of an anticipatory
set to go with your books for students
with the most significant disabilities. Use
this object to relay what the story is
about. Students can answer summary
questions using this object.
• It is not always possible to represent
what the story is about with an object. If
you cannot, then choose something
from the front cover.
• For example, in the book Alexander and
the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very
Bad Day, without a boy doll it would be
hard to represent the main idea of this
story. We chose to use a pillow since
there is one of the cover.
• We chose the baseball for Dewey
McGee Loves a Good Game and shells
for Tar Beach. You could also use a
piece of asphalt for Tar Beach.
• Here a parrot is used for this chapter
book and clouds are created for It’s
Your Cloud.
• Notice that the clouds are just cotton
balls glued to construction paper. You
can often find inexpensive ways to
make what you need.
• A nice extension activity could involve
students creating their own clouds.
Adapting Books for Students with
the Most Significant Disabilities,
• You can learn more about literacy for
students with the most significant
disabilities in the MAST “Story Based
Lessons” module.
Activity- Adapting Books for
Students with the Most Significant
• Using the “Adapted Book Plan”, plan for
how to adapt a book for a student who
is visually impaired.
Adapting Books with a Focus on
• Let’s look at how we can adapt books for
higher level comprehension or for
students who are moving towards being
independent readers.
• When adapting books with a
comprehension focus you may decide not
to focus of elements such as the repeated
storyline, text pointing, or pointing to the
title and author.
Adapting Books with a Focus on
Comprehension, continued
• Instead, you want students to work on
listening comprehension. As the teacher
you want to do all the reading, making
sure that you are reading fluently and in
an engaging voice.
• When adapting books:
– Use Blooms Taxonomy to create questions
that require higher level thinking.
Adapting Books with a Focus on
Comprehension, continued
– Create questions boards with the questions
typed out and the response options
attached to the page. This allows the
student to be more independent.
– Create an answer board where the student
can place answers. Answers can then be
checked by the teacher or a peer.
• Now let’s look at some examples from a
book that has been adapted for higher
level comprehension.
Adapting Books with a focus
on Comprehension
Examples of questions following
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Questions from the book: Jamaica’s
Literal Recall/knowledge
Although they may seem easy, prediction
questions are actually higher level questions
because they require the student to use the
knowledge that they have gained from the
book, combine it with knowledge they already
possess and make a prediction.
Include several literal recall questions. These
questions can be answered by simple
recalling facts from the story. For example,
the text leading up to this questions was
“Jamaica arrived at the park…”
Application questions involve applying
what was learned by listening to the text
to something novel.
In addition to questions, students can
demonstrate application knowledge by
drawing or otherwise creating a scene
from the story, acting out a scene,
pointing to a location from the story on a
Sequencing/ comprehension
Sequencing comes out of the
comprehension level of Bloom’s taxonomy.
In this example there are three scenarios
of the sequence given as response
options. Another option is to present the
correct sequence only, in random order,
and ask what happened first, next, and
An analysis question may ask what is the
same or different about two things. In this
example the focus is what is the same
and the three responses are provides.
Another option would be to create a Venn
diagram for Jamaica and Kristen and
analyze the characteristics of both girls
individually as well as what is the same
about them.
Summary questions fall under the
synthesis category. Synthesis is second
from the top of the order on Bloom’s
Taxonomy. Summary questions require
the student to consider the main idea of
the story to answer the question.
Questions that require inference are also
examples of synthesis questions. In
Jamaica’s Find, it is not directly stated
where Jamaica will take Kristen, therefore
the student has to infer the answer.
Evaluation is the highest level of question
on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
There is not one pictured but an example
would be: Jamaica decided to return the
stuffed dog to the park ranger. Do you
think that was the right thing to do?
Adapting Books with a Focus on
Comprehension, continued
Public domain image from
When creating comprehension
questions, try not to limit your students
by only asking literal recall questions.
Adapting Books with a Focus on
Comprehension, continued
• One last thing to consider…assistive
technology. As you are planning on how
to adapt your book, consider how
assistive technology will be used and
what responses need to be created for
use on the devices.
• Some examples:
A device that allows you
to put in several response
options at one time is
perfect for comprehension
A single message voice
output device is great for
the student reading the
repeated story line,
requesting to turn the
page, or open the book.
When creating response options, individualize
them for your students. Can they answer with
words, symbols, photos, or objects?
• Adapting books can be a lot of work.
• But a well adapted book will last for years
and you may spend several weeks reading
the same book to your students.
• If other teachers at your school need
adapted books, one way to lessen the load
is to each adapt one or two books and then
pass them around.
Summary, continued
• There are also many resources and short
cuts available. Several companies sell
products that make adapting books easier.
• There are also chapter books that have
already been condensed down. These are
available on several websites.
• See resources in Facilitator’s Guide or
online module for specific information.
Session Evaluation
• A form for participants to evaluate the
session is available in the Facilitator’s
Focus and Reflection Questions
1. At the beginning of this session, it was
stated that “People with disabilities deserve
to be a part of the conversations that we
have around literature. They should have
the opportunity to create memories about
favorite books.” What are some of your
favorite memories from books? What would
be some adaptations you would use to
share those memories with students?
Focus and Reflection Questions,
2. What are some other reasons for
adapting books?
Focus and Reflection Questions,
3. Name a popular book with children
today – maybe one that has been
made into a movie.
a. Discuss some ways to adapt the book for
b. For physical limitations.
c.For students with most significant
d. Using adaptive technology.
Application & Extension activities
1. Read one chapter of a chapter book
that is appropriate for middle or high
school. Adapt the text so that it falls
within the K-2 reading level. You can
determine the level by typing in your
adapted text at
Application & Extension activities,
2. Books can be adapted for different
purposes and different types of students.
Consider how you might adapt a book for
a group of students that
– Do not have any physical limitations
– Are tactile defensive
– Need symbol support along with the text
Application & Extension activities,
– Comprehend text that is read aloud and
can answer literal recall questions easily
– What physical adaptations will you make?
– What adaptations to content will you
– How will students demonstrate
A self-assessment with response feedback
is available at .
Participants may take this assessment
online to evaluate their learning about
content presented in this module.